A University of Maryland student had the opportunity to perform at Vice President Kamala Harris’ Diwali event held in her official residence this month.
Navya Nataraj, a junior finance major, was invited to the Nov. 8 event to play the tabla, a set of two small drums played using all ten fingertips that originates from North India.
During an interview earlier this year, Nataraj said her goal for 2023 was to perform at a sort of White House or vice president event.
Earlier this year, Nataraj started The Tabla Queen, where she accepts performance bookings and posts videos of her performing classical music online. She hopes to collaborate with other student musicians on campus through her social media.
For Nataraj, the core of the project is being able to show that a woman can play the tabla.
“That’s the biggest thing is being able to say that girls can do it too, and showing people that it’s possible,” Nataraj said.
Growing up, Nataraj would sit in on her older siblings’ music lessons and listen to them play the tabla.
While her siblings ultimately chose other musical outlets, Nataraj found a passion for the tabla.
“I was just sitting in a corner from a distance watching their lessons and that’s when I kind of got interested in it,” Nataraj said.
Her mother, Radhika, has watched her daughter grow as a musician over the years.
“Even when she was younger, you could tell that this kid had the beat,” her mother said.
Radhika Nataraj was not given the opportunity to play the tabla growing up because it was not seen as an instrument for girls.
Oftentimes, Navya Nataraj would be the only girl at events playing the tabla, a fact others constantly reminded her of. Receiving criticism for playing the instrument made Nataraj feel “separated” from others and caused her to stop playing for a few years, she said.
Sawinder Singh, Nataraj’s music teacher, is proud of the work she is doing with social media and The Tabla Queen. He has enjoyed watching as Nataraj has taken her tabla skills to the “next level.”
“She’s so in it. That’s amazing. And I feel proud of it,” Singh said. “It’s someone really giving 100 percent to this beautiful instrument.”